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A groundbreaking manifesto for people searching for the kind of insight on leading, thinking, and living that elite schools should be--but aren't--providing.As a professor at Yale, Bill Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation's brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions: how to think critically and creatively, and how to find a sense of purpose. Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counselors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw firsthand as a member of Yale's admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the humanities to "practical" subjects like economics and computer science, students are losing the ability to think in innovative ways. Deresiewicz explains how college should be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success, so they can forge their own path. He addresses parents, students, educators, and anyone who's interested in the direction of American society, featuring quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and clearly presenting solutions.
This elegant and thoughtful work offers an important new way of understanding Jane Austen by defining the fundamental impact and influence of British Romanticism on her later novels. In comparing the earlier and later phases of Austen's career, Deresiewicz addresses an important yet neglected issue regarding her work: the longstanding critical consensus that Austen's last three novels (Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion) represent far greater artistic achievements than do her first three (Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice). Jane Austen and the Romantic Poets offers a rich account of the differences between the two phases of Austen's career. In doing so, it contextualizes her later novels within the British Romantic movement and the works of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, and Byron. Through close readings of Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion, Deresiewicz reveals the importance of Romantic ideas in Austen's later work, considering the ways in which the novels investigate hidden mechanisms of psychic and affective life, including "substitution," "ambiguous relationships," and "widowhood." Deresiewicz's innovative approach and its emphasis on Romanticism opens up new perspectives on Austen's later novels by exploring their patterns of imagery, narrative logics, and social and historical dimensions.
An eloquent memoir of a young man's life transformed by literature. In A Jane Austen Education, Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrate the enduring power of Austen's teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man's discovery of the world outside himself. A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen's devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen's eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters-that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun. Weaving his own story-and Austen's-around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feeling, staying young and being good, and, of course, love. As they grow up, they learn lessons that are imparted to Austen's reader, who learns and grows by their sides. A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen's mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen's world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.Watch a Video
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